U.S.-backed offensive in Syria targets ISIS’s capital

The Washington Post reports: A Kurdish-led force backed by U.S. airstrikes launched an offensive on Tuesday to seize territory around the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, the first ground attack to directly challenge the Islamic State’s control of its self-proclaimed capital.

Although the operation appears to have relatively limited goals, it will serve as an early test of a coalition being forged with U.S. help between local Arab fighters and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, to take on the militant group in its most symbolically significant stronghold.

A few thousand Kurdish and Arab fighters — grouped under the umbrella of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes — began moving south from the existing front line about 30 miles north of Raqqa, according to a statement from the SDF and the U.S. military.

The operation aims to secure control of a stretch of territory in the mostly desert terrain north of Raqqa, said Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for the U.S. military, speaking by telephone from Baghdad. [Continue reading…]

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